It’s Saturday in Mayfair and there’s magic in the beat-laden air. That kind of pure, electric, mouth-curling glee at witnessing something special. Smiles from Sao Paulo, LA, Russia and Saudi rise to meet cult beats. Chins hit the floor as a pair of otherworldly, bikini-clad Pocahontas’s sashay around like cartoon apparitions. Queues form mile-long for the visiting sangria cocktails. Those cult caps scattered around the club are dothed for endless selfies.
Blue Marlin Novikov
Blue Marlin is the legendary Ibiza club that’s migrated to Puerta Vallarta, UAE and now London. Along the way they’ve sold out pop ups at the Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Grand Prix and here, drawing the famous, the fashionable and the fabulous to London’s most exclusive haunts. “One of the things people can expect from Blue Marlin is that our pops ups will be permanent,” explains Luca Mazzoncini, Global Operations Director, who opened Blue Marlin’s first European outpost outside Ibiza around the corner following two years of pop-up residencies in spring.
Bright, flashy, fun and totally on the pulse, pop-ups make every fixed establishment feel tired.... With the least accessible haunts now gracing festivals and events, luxury brands appearing fleetingly in borrowed or temporary spaces and festivals and markets adopting the VIP ethos, pop-ups are the shiny new things of London and, increasingly, the world.
Lou Lous at Bauers
Soho ‘Desert’ House lands in Coachella. The French Laundry – from the seven Michelin-starred king of the guerrilla gastro Thomas Keller – popped up in Harrods. David Beckham transformed the Wellington Arch into a temporary members club to launch his Haig Club whiskey and Lou Lou’s had a Venetian-inspired makeover for La Biennale last year. Commes des Garçon – the fashion brand who, in 2004, began opening temporary stores in disused buildings around the world – pretty much invented the pop up. In London, it all probably started with The Double Club. The brainchild of Prada and Carsten Holler seemed like the most extraordinary concept the world had ever seen and – with a Congolese-meets-Western theme infusing the food, music and design – it probably was.
The Glam Clam
Nuno Mendes, Michelin-starred restaurateur and executive chef of the Chiltern Firehouse, was at the eye of the pop up storm, when he launched his now-legendary Loft Project in 2008, a supper club dining phenomenon that introduced the Michelin-starred chefs of today, “There were a couple of pop-ups around and then it just really exploded,” Mendes explained to LUXOS. Olly Dabbous, The Clove Club’s Isaac McHale, Favriken’s Magnus Nilsson, Marque’s Mark Best and James Lowe of Lyle’s, "were all young cooks trying to do their own thing. The Loft offered them a platform to showcase their work. Now they are thriving.”
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With all the exclusivity of a society bash, all the surprise of a happening and the inventiveness of an art show, pop ups put the special back into the sense of occasion. It’s also clear that temporary is the new permanent, with a third of all UK restaurants, shops and bars predicted to launch as pop ups in the future. “It’s a modern platform and a more intimate, exciting and social platform,” enthuses Mendes.
Fentimans Botanical Bar at L'Escargot
In the name of research – and solely for that, you understand – I’ve been visiting pop ups as diverse as an RV with a 50,000 strong waiting list parked somewhere off one of Shoreditch’s most fashionable streets in which moustachioed men in boiler suits invited me to don a laboratory mask and mix smoking potions in test tubes for molecular cocktails on a set themed on the television series Breaking Bad and a pod in Krug’s for-one-week-only Champagne and Seafood Bar. I’ve been transported through the back streets of Hong Kong via a Gingerline experience and imbibed bottomless Champagne and lobster before winning a dance competition at The Glam Clam. I’ve visited Burning Man – the ultimate pop up where a city is built and eradicated over the course of eight weeks – pregnant. I was even there when The Double Club launched – yes, I really am that old.
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As diverse as they are unpredictable, what unifies these happenings is their uniqueness and Dadaesque spirit. That you never know quite when – or where – they might pop up. That – as they sell out in hours and vanish within days – you have to catch them amid the whirr of hype, red tape and excitement while – and if – you can.
Tom Sellers at the Krug Pop-Up
Gingerline unveiled its latest dining experience in April. The Krug cabins are slated to return this summer. Nuno Mendes' Viajante will reopen this autumn, when The Glam Clam will throw their Wolf of Wall Street-themed bash in the City based around the collapse of the stock exchange. The Breaking Bad RV has rolled on to Paris. You become immersed in a pop up's magic, intimacy, wonder and imagination – then it disappears – leaving the imprint of its world, message and milieu in your psyche... And you wondering: "Was that just a dream...?"
Remy Martin Members LMRM launch
Dining with a difference
The natural marriage for the pop up phenomenon, experience restaurants before they open alongside the culinary trends and Michelin-starred chefs of tomorrow at locations such as the new Market Yard test kitchen-cum-residency space, London in the Sky, where the visiting Michelin-starred chefs provide wow factor equalled only by the vertiginous dining or the similarly lofty – and one tabled – dining experience, Per Una at the summit of the St Pancras Chambers.
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Pop up bars add frisson to any night out. House of Peroni returns to London this summer in a Mayfair townhouse, and keep your eye out for guest appearances by cult-like celebrity bastion The Groucho Club – last spring/summer they popped up at the Hay Literary Festival and legendary Ibiza stalwart Pikes. Also discover pop up bars taking over summer terraces and dining, drinking and DeeJays at the capital’s burgeoning array of achingly trendy street food markets. Boiler Room – not strictly a pop up but ad hoc and migrating – is the event everyone wants to get into, if only they knew how...
Catch a film
Nomad at Brompton Cemetery
Occupying some of London’s most breathtaking backdrops in the open air, from Backyard Cinema’s evermore creative screenings with historical backdrops to Nomad’s viewings at sites spanning from Coram Secret Garden to the Brompton Cemetery and Grosvenor Square and the now-legendary Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, there’s no better way to indulge in a night at the movies on a warm summer’s eve.
For a limited run only, immersive events take on disused office blocks, warehouses and even landmarks and transform them into parallel universes. Try the classic Gingerline dining experience, enter the world of vintage British gangland at The Tick Tack Club and don’t miss Secret Cinema this summer.